Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An art equation....

Who says artists don't like math?

My subject in the archives of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center - an American Marten.


My tools.

The beginning....

The end.
American Marten pencil drawing  22" x 24"  by Shirl Ireland
Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -
We've been watching wolves - probably the 8 Mile Pack - from our scope we have set up inside. It's mating season for wolves, so it's often a good time to spot them.
Today, I tried to get some photos....
I know, they're pretty rough. I find photographing through a scope tricky, but I'll keep trying.
The following photos were much easier to get....straight out the window, no scope involved. 
We've been watching a lot of bison out the windows.

Often, a gathering of elk AND bison lately.
Elk in the foreground with bison in the background.

Pronghorn antelope have been wandering through as well.

And many ducks stopping by - this one is a female mallard duck.
The usual late winter menagerie.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The grass isn't always greener....

Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -

So this morning some of those elk from yesterday swam BACK across the River from Yellowstone National Park to our property.

I guess the grass was NOT greener on the other side...


Paradise is where I am.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Elk swimming and a flicker sketch

A page from my sketch book this week.....
Northern Flicker - pencil sketch 12" x 18"
by Shirl Ireland
Wildlife tidbit for the day.....Northern flickers are somewhat common here on our property. Beautiful birds with very distinct plumage. Unlike other woodpeckers, they forage largely on the ground, feeding on ants, etc. To learn more about the Northern Flicker, click here.

Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -

I certainly was not thinking that today would be a good day for a dip in the Yellowstone River! But this morning, a group of elk headed across the Yellowstone River to Yellowstone National Park, where the grass looked greener I guess.

testing the waters....

taking the plunge

getting to Yellowstone on the other shore
shaking off some water on the other side
Luckily these kayakers didn't go by during the elk crossing. They're the first 'humans' we've seen on the River so far this year.....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A work in progress

An artist friend, Carol Guzman, came over and we set up a still life in my studio....

(Carol has a new web site - check it out at

still life set up in my studio

From our trip to San Francisco, I brought back a traditional rice cooker and fortune cookies from Chinatown. We thought they'd make a fun still life to paint.

I started painting a lot more still life when I met Carol. I owe her loads of gratitude for reminding me the importance of still life and the appreciation for it!

Painting from life really is such an important part of an artists growth. The colors and nuances you see 'in person' are very different from what you will see in a photograph.

While plein air painting (painting outside) and still life painting (setting up for a painting inside) are both forms of 'painting from life', they hold different lessons...

With still life painting you have so much more control over the setting up of your scene and lighting of your subject. You have the time to focus on the accuracy of your drawing, and time to compare the tones and colors many times over. You can really think about your edges and adjust and refine where needed -over and over. It can be a MUCH slower process.

With plein air painting, you can't control the sun and clouds - the light is ALWAYS changing.... The clock is ticking, you've got to get the paint down FAST...AND you might need to be swatting bugs or wearing gloves to keep warm...and oh, the choices out there of what to put on your canvas in the first place!

But inside you can control the conditions and keep the lighting pretty consistent, making it possible to go back and work a painting over many sessions...

So I love to indulge myself when I work on still life - enjoying the aspect of time. Appreciating the lessons that come with this slower process.

I plan to work on this painting again - and maybe again and again! We'll see how long it takes to get to where I'd like it to be. Layering, scumbling and glazing over dry paint can be SO much fun! (Remember, any time I use an art term you're unfamiliar with, give a shout. I'm happy to clarify.)

I have the painting 'over the hump' in my first session. This is a good time to take advantage of the luxury of time and step away for a bit. At this point, I do want to be sure all elements that I put in will stay. I don't want to have to totally scrape out or paint completely over anything if at all possible.

I think I'm there.

From here, I'll start adjusting.... slowly.

my painting in progress - oil 12' x 16"
Ah, the luxury of time.....
After I stepped away, and came back I thought.... should I add an element in the lower left corner??
So I tried some different shapes of cookies and papers.....
a possible element to add to the painting?
Now, I'm thinking maybe just another random 'chip' of a fortune cookie?? I think another strip of paper could be too much and detract from what I have now.
I'll need to be careful not to make the composition look to 'spotty' with unrelated elements. I like some plain space in paintings, but it needs to have interesting negative shapes. Whatever element I end up choosing (or not!) for that lower left corner area, it will need to tie into the shapes I have already established. Oh, so many choices.
What do you think?....
What would you do to the painting at this point?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


June 19 & June 27, 2014

 -  If you can’t make those dates, try sometime between June 17 – July 12, 2014  -

We are thrilled to announce that this year brings a very exciting Show to our plate!
John and I will be exhibiting our work in the 2-person show and sale “Formaldehyde to Fine Art” at the Livingston Center for Art & Culture. We’ll take you on the journey from study to final piece – displaying pencil sketches, plein air oils, clay models, bronze sculpture and large studio work. We’ll show you what it takes to turn an inspiration into a work of art!    

AND, we’ll even have on display some artifacts from the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center - artifacts I’ve studied, drawn and painted as part of my learning process.
Come along on the journey - seeing how two Montana artists uniquely interpret the Yellowstone area where we live.

June 19, 2014 @ 7 pm ...
Join Shirl for a lively art lecture and slide show - 
"ART – It’s Hard Work... but somebody has to do it!"

June 27, 2014  5:30 pm – 8 pm...
Join John and Shirl at the Reception for “Formaldehyde to Fine Art” at the Livingston Center for Art and Culture on Main Street in Livingston Montana     
Formaldehyde to Fine Art
Show & Sale
June 17 - July 12, 2014
at the Livingston Center for Art and Culture
in Livingston, Montana
And, much, much more!
Hope you can make the Show
 Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -
Today, huge flocks of Bohemian Waxwings stopped by - beautiful birds and amazing to watch in such large flocks...